Just about all of the league’s top Fantasy defenses are still playing for something in the real world and will need to put up strong performances in Week 17. The Denver Broncos need a win to clinch the AFC West division, and their defense has a good matchup against the Chargers.
The Chiefs defense has been on a roll and has a good home matchup against the Raiders. If the Chiefs win, they clinch the AFC South title.
The Cardinals have a chance of becoming the NFC’s number one seed in the playoffs if they win and are home against the Seahawks who’ve already clinched a playoff berth.
The Panthers are looking to get back on the winning track in Week 17, and a win will ensure that they are the overall number one seed in the NFC.
The Jets defense should be inspired to shut down the Bills offense. If the Jets win or tie, they are in the playoffs. I’m sure it would be all that much sweeter to clinch a playoff spot against their old coach Rex Ryan, who celebrated as if he had just won the Super Bowl after the Bills’ Week 10 victory against “Gang Green”.
I wouldn’t start the Giants defense if your season depended on it, but it will be interesting to see how they perform after getting lit up for 49 points against the Vikings in a listless effort in Week 16. Is this the perfect spot for their defense, against a division rival who just fired their head coach? Can they muster up one last solid performance for Tom Coughlin, in what will likely be his last game as their head coach?
If your Fantasy season is on the line this week I wouldn’t start the Tennessee Titans either. It’s tempting. They are facing a Colts team that will be using its fourth quarterback of the season, and they give up the fifth most Fantasy points to opposing defenses. On the other hand, the Colts defense could also be a tempting start as well, since the Titans give up the most Fantasy points to opposing defenses. Who knows, this game could end up in a 0-0 tie!
If you’re reading this column, you’ve either been streaming Fantasy defenses all season long or you’re looking for a value play for your daily lineup.
The defenses I am picking this week have talent, are playing for something and coincidentally enough, a couple of them are playing teams that have some extra-curricular drama surrounding the end of their seasons.
Do you need some more defensive options to consider using in your Fantasy lineups this week? Well, once again, I’ve carefully combed the NFL schedule, and I’ve identified another four defensive teams that according to ESPN.com, are being started in 60 percent or less of Fantasy leagues. Each of these defenses are talented but even more importantly, they have good matchups. I’ve also identified four kickers that you might consider streaming this week as well. Read on and use your best judgement because in the end it’s your season that’s on the line, and you shouldn’t put any team or player in your lineup that you’re not completely comfortable with. Do your own research, maybe even follow your gut instincts and don’t try to get too cute when it comes time to submitting your starting lineup this week. If you have any feedback based on the contents of this article, reach out to me on Twitter @joegallina. Good luck this week!
Top Team Defense Streamers for Week 17
New England Patriots
Matchup: @ Miami Dolphins
Weather: 79 degrees, drizzle. ESE winds 4 MPH
The Patriots may have won the AFC East division title, but they can clinch home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win or tie against the Dolphins. After last week’s humbling loss to the Jets, they should be motivated to play well so that they can head into the playoffs on a winning note. The statistics point to a big day for the Patriots defense. I can tell you about how Patriots’ cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, who have 29 passes defended between them, have favorable matchups against Dolphins’ receivers DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry and should be able to contain Miami’s passing game. I can also tell you about how the Pats have given up the fifth fewest touchdowns to running backs (eight), and should be able to stuff the Dolphins’ running game. What is even more interesting is that the Patriots’ defense may be playing against a Dolphins team that hates its quarterback! Well if you believe Miko Grimes, Dolphins’ cornerback Brent Grimes’ wife, the whole team “hated” quarterback Ryan Tannehill. (It has to be true because she tweeted it, right?) Perhaps that might explain why the Dolphins have given up the third most quarterback hits (104), a stat that will not go unnoticed by the Patriots’ pass rush who has recorded the second most sacks in the NFL (48). Overall what you have in this matchup is a determined Patriots team putting their seventh ranked defense against a Dolphins offense that is ranked sixth worst overall, and just trying to keep it together for one more game amidst a soap opera like atmosphere.
Matchup: @ Cleveland Browns
Weather: 34 degrees and partly cloudy. WSW winds 11 MPH
The Steelers clinch a playoff spot with a win against the hapless Browns and a loss by the Jets. Securing a win against the Browns, who give up the second most Fantasy points to opposing defenses shouldn’t be too difficult for the Steelers, but I don’t blame you for not trusting them. After all they scored a big fat zero Fantasy points against the Ravens, who aren’t one of the NFL’s offensive juggernauts. Would you feel better about using the Steelers’ defense this week if I reminded you that Fantasy defenses have scored just under 11 Fantasy points against the Browns across the past six weeks, and in their first matchup against the Browns this season, the Steelers scored 15 Fantasy points against them? There are just so many ways that a Fantasy defense like the Steelers’ can score Fantasy points against the Browns. For instance the Steelers D could take advantage of the fact that the Browns score the fourth fewest overall points per game (17.7), or they can score Fantasy points off of the Browns’ fourth most giveaways (26). The Steelers could also use their pass rush, which has registered the fourth most sacks in the NFL (41) against the Browns’ offensive line that has given up the third most sacks (46) and is tied for the most QB hits allowed on the season (113). Who will be taking those hits? Probably not Johnny Manziel, who is likely to sit out this game due to a concussion, and who may have played his last snap for the Browns. Look for Austin Davis to get the start at quarterback, but even though the Steelers have given up the second most Fantasy points to wide receivers, he might have a tough day. Steelers’ cornerbacks William Gay, Brandon Boykin, and Ross Cockrell, who together had 15 total tackles, a sack and three passes defended in Week 16, have favorable matchups and should be able to limit the production of Browns’ receivers Travis Benjamin, Darius Jennings and Taylor Gabriel. The Browns have been getting some good production out of RB Isaiah Crowell as of late, but he is likely to have a tough time running the ball since the Steelers give up the second fewest Fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, and up until last week had not given up more than 86 yards to a running back in their five previous games.
Matchup: @ Green Bay Packers
Weather: 25 degrees, mostly cloudy. NW winds 6 MPH
This is a classic matchup of football the way it ought to be played. The Vikings and Packers meet in a nationally televised game played on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI and the winner will be crowned the NFC North champ. The Vikings defense has been coming on as of late, scoring double digit Fantasy points in two straight games. Within those games they recorded nine sacks and caused their opponents to turn the ball over seven times. The Packers’ offensive line collapsed in Week 16 against the Cardinals, causing their quarterbacks to be sacked nine times, a performance that raised their overall sacks allowed total to rise to seventh most in the NFL (42). The Packers are 13th in overall points scored this season, just a year after owning the league’s highest scoring offense, and they face a Vikings defense that has given up the sixth fewest average points per game this season (19.3), and has been reinforced by the recent return of defensive standouts like NT Linval Joseph, SLB Anthony Barr and FS Harrison Smith. You never want to overstate the importance of one player on a team but Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers obviously misses the big play ability of receiver Jordy Nelson. Their passing offense has dropped to 26th in the league after being ranked eighth last season. The Vikings defense has given up the ninth fewest average passing yards per game 232.3. Cornerbacks Captain Munnerlyn and Terence Newman should have the upper hand over Rodgers disappointing WR1, Randall Cobb, and the equally unproductive Davante Adams. The Vikings D has been weak against the run, but Packers’ RB Eddie Lacy has been one of the biggest busts in Fantasy football this season. Lacy, who was a top five overall pick in most preseason Fantasy drafts, has been unpredictable and inconsistent, and will make it difficult for the Packers to take advantage of the Vikes’ vulnerability to their opponents running game.
St. Louis Rams
Matchup: @ San Francisco 49ers
Weather: 57 degrees, overcast. SSE winds 7 MPH
In a battle between two of the worst offenses in football the Rams take on the 49ers who have given up the third most Fantasy points to opposing defenses. We’ve talked about the Rams’ inability to score in this column, but make no mistake about it, the Rams have a defense that is capable of periodically putting up some big Fantasy numbers. Last week the Rams, held the Seahawks offense, which had been surging recently, to just 17 points. Other than their pass rush, the Rams defense doesn’t have one particular area in which they dominate, however cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson (16 passes defended), and Janoris Jenkins (15 passes defended) have good matchups against the uneven play of 49ers receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin. The Rams’ pass rush is responsible for the seventh most sacks in football, and faces a 49ers offensive line that has allowed their quarterbacks to be sacked the most of any team (52). The last time the Rams defense faced the 49ers in Week 7, they were able to score 12 Fantasy points against them, and with an offense that scores the 10th fewest overall points, they should be able to provide you with positive Fantasy points in this matchup.
Top Fantasy Football Kickers for Week 17
Josh Brown, New York Giants
Matchup: vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Weather: 41 clear. WNW winds 9 MPH
The Giants offense will look to rebound after last weekend’s horrible showings against the Vikings in what could be Tom Coughlin’s last game as their head coach. Who knows how the Eagles will react after a week in which their head coach was given his walking papers. Josh Brown has been one of the most accurate field goal kickers this season, and I think he will see plenty of scoring opportunities as the Giants’ players look to help Coughlin end his Giants career on a high note.
Mike Nugent, Cincinnati Bengals
Matchup: vs. Baltimore Ravens
Weather: 36 degrees, clear. WSW winds 8 MPH
The Bengals need a win to try and clinch a first round bye in the playoffs and face off against the Ravens who have given up the fourth most Fantasy points to opposing kickers. With the Bengals ranked fifth in converting their offensive red zone possessions into touchdowns their kicker Mike Nugent, is likely to have multiple scoring opportunities.
Shayne Graham, Atlanta Falcons
Matchup: vs. New Orleans Saints
With the Saints giving up the second most overall yards to opposing offenses I agree with the odds makers in Las Vegas, who think this matchup will be a high scoring affair. Falcons’ kicker Shayne Graham has made 10 of his 11 field goal attempts after having to fill in for Matt Bryant in Week 12 and should be busy this Sunday afternoon.
Nick Novak, Houston Texans
Matchup: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Weather: 53 degrees, partly cloudy. N winds 6 MPH
The Texans will look to clinch the AFC south with a win or tie and face the Jaguars, who have given up the sixth most Fantasy points to field goal kickers. Nick Novak has made 15 of his 17 field goal attempts since joining the Texans in Week 4, and should be able to increase that total.